CTCW President's Message: Join CTCW Today!

WDC Journal Edition: Spring 2004
By: Bernie McCartan

What is the value of a professional organization like Civil Trial Counsel of Wisconsin ? Why do I belong to CTCW? I have been asking myself these questions repeatedly in the last few weeks as I contemplate the coming year of my presidency. Is it a way to obtain continuing legal education credits? Is it a vehicle for obtaining volume discounts on products or services? Is it a means by which the membership can seek to influence the course of public policy? Is it a method for pooling and sharing resources such as experts or briefs or depositions? Can it help members market their services? Clearly, the answer to all of these questions is yes. CTCW can and does offer such things. But, so do a lot of other organizations. So, the question remains, why do I belong?

I belong to CTCW because I believe it makes me a better lawyer. Membership in CTCW has given me the opportunity to meet, associate with, and learn from a group of professional colleagues whom I have come to regard very highly. Being active in CTCW has given me the opportunity to make friends, with whom I not only socialize but who have acted as sounding-boards and professional mentors. Involvement in the CTCW Legislative and Amicus committees has given me the opportunity to help shape public policy. Preparation for speaking at CTCW seminars has been a chance to brush up on the law in various areas of my practice. Along the way, I’ve picked up my required CLE credits year after year at CTCW conferences, almost without trying.

Now, I have the privilege of leading CTCW for the next year, in effect, the ultimate involvement in the organization. As I look at CTCW and take stock, I see many good things, and some things that need work. CTCW is in many ways a very dynamic organization. In the past year, CTCW has launched the Wisconsin Civil Trial Journal. The organization’s web site is good and getting better all the time. Interaction with and between members is improving with the introduction of electronic communication tools. CTCW has active Amicus and Legislative committees. Dues are reasonable, and the CLE programming is first rate. CTCW has a solid core of officers, directors and committee chairpersons. In short, CTCW has a lot going for it and a lot to offer.

At the same time, as I have looked around at our conferences in the last couple of years, I didn’t see some faces that used to be almost fixtures, and I wondered where they were. I also wondered why there weren’t more faces. At one time, the annual Defense on the Offense in July drew 200 to 300 people. Attendance at the fall convention this year was about 130 despite an excellent CLE program. Why is that? It has occurred to me that, while we have about 500 members who have joined CTCW in name, sending in dues every year, we have far fewer who have truly joined CTCW by becoming involved in its programs and activities. We need to change that.

Some members have told me they’re busy, that the demands of practice make it very difficult to get away. Others have said it’s easier and more cost-effective for their firms to produce CLE programming in-house than to go to a conference. To them I suggest that, while skipping a conference may save some time or money in the short run, the cost of lost opportunity to interact and exchange ideas with professional peers and friends is much greater in the long run.

I suspect there are many others who might be willing to get involved but are not sure how or are perhaps waiting to be asked. To them I say, this is your invitation, and here’s how to do it. Call me or call a member of the CTCW Board of Directors. Call the chairperson of a substantive law sub-committee. All of our names and numbers are on the CTCW web site, www.ctcw.org. Ask us how you can become involved. If you don’t want to call, watch for your 2004 dues notice, coming in the near future. It will have a place to indicate interest in a CTCW committee. Mark your preference and we’ll call you.

If you have written a brief or an opinion lately, you have the makings of a Civil Trial Journal article or a seminar outline already at hand. All you have to do is re-work it a bit. Your colleagues in CTCW can benefit from your expertise through one of several substantive law sub-committees. If you have interest in a legislative issue, CTCW has a Legislative Committee that may be working on the issue now. The legislature needs your insight and CTCW can be the channel for you to provide it. If you have a talent for writing briefs, the CTCW Amicus Committee needs members to draft amicus briefs. You can represent CTCW and help shape the law by providing the Supreme Court with a balanced view of important issues.

As CTCW moves ahead, I see our committees as crucial to the success of CTCW as an organization. They should and, I hope, will become the place from which speakers and authors, and, ultimately, directors and officers will be drawn. For that reason, I intend to emphasize them in the coming year, hoping to help them grow and become a mainstay of the organization. I ask you to join me in that effort, for the benefit of CTCW, our profession and yourself.

To paraphrase John Lennon, in the end, the benefits you take are equal to the benefits you make. There are no benefits, for you, CTCW or anyone else, until you act. So, do it now. Give us a call and get involved, in any way you can. CTCW will be a better organization for it. The legal profession, the law and the community they serve will all be the better for it. And, finally, you will be a better lawyer for it.

I look forward to working with you in the near future.

Bernie McCartan

President – Civil Trial Counsel of Wisconsin